Sunday, September 24, 2006

Great moments in rock and roll: the meta-moment

For our purposes, the meta-moment is when a song refers to its own performance (usually in the form of naming its singers). Think of it as an actor breaking the fourth wall, talking to the audience and forcing the audience to remember that the play and the characters are not real.

The Beatles - "Boys"
(1:04): Ringo says, "All right, George!" before the guitar solo.

The Beatles - "Honey Don't"
(1:15): Ringo says, "Aw, rock on George. One time for me."
(2:20): Ringo says, "Aw, rock on George. For Ringo one time."

Pixies - "Tony Theme"
(0:00): This moment was previously featured in the spoken-word episode of Great Moments. Kim Deal says, "This is a song about a superhero named Tony. It's called 'Tony's Theme.'" And so it is. Watch a live performance below:

Radiohead - "My Iron Lung"
(2.47): Thom Yorke sings, "This, this is our new song, just like the last one. A total waste of time, my iron lung." ("My Iron Lung" is Radiohead's follow-up single to "Creep." The electric guitars even quote the infamous crunch from "Creep.")

The Beatles - "Get Back" (rooftop version)
(2:30): During the coda, Paul says, "Get back. You've been out too long Loretta, you've been singing on the roofs again. And that's no good. 'Cause you know your mommy doesn't like that. When she gets angry, she's going to have you arrested." The line makes more sense when you consider that the song was being performed on the roof of the Apple studios just as the police were about to shut it down.

This is a really fun video because we see John playing lead guitar and George having a problem with his amp.

Paul McCartney - "Silly Love Songs"
(0:39): McCartney spends a whole verse justifying this song's existence: "Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. And what's wrong with that? I'd like to know. 'Cause here I go again: I love you, I love you..."

Jay-Z feat. UGK - "Big Pimpin'"
(1:34 and others): "It's just that Jigga Man, Pimp C, and B-U-N B." This line refers to the three rappers on this song: Jay-Z (Jigga Man), Pimp C and Bun B. Pimp C and Bun B are the two members of the hip-hop duo UGK (short for Underground Kingz).

Gwen Stefani feat. Eve - "Rich Girl"
(2:51): Yet another hip-hop meta-moment. Eve raps, "See Stefani and her L.A.M.B., I rock the Fetish People, you know who I am."

Queen - "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
(1:52): Freddie Mercury sings, "Take a long ride on my motorbike until I'm ready," and the harmonies respond, "Ready Freddie."

The Beatles - "Only A Northern Song"
The whole song is a meta-moment. Wikipedia explains it best:
The lyrics feature Harrison's disparagement of the song itself, concluding each verse with the title phrase "It's only a Northern song", which Harrison has explained as referring both to the band's often-disrespected hometown of Liverpool (northwest of London), and to the Northern Songs publishing company. (Harrison had not yet formed his own publishing company; Northern Songs was Lennon/McCartney's publishing company, for whom Harrison was, at the time, essentially a writer-for-hire). The song is sometimes interpreted as a sarcastic jibe at Lennon/McCartney, mocking the overtly psychedelic lyrics and musical style they employed in many songs during this time, and as a reaction to the often-dismissive attitude bandmates John Lennon and Paul McCartney held of Harrison's songwriting contributions, with Harrison listlessly singing "It doesn't really matter what chords I play / What words I say or time of day it is / As it's only a Northern song".
Sly and the Family Stone - "Dance To The Music"
(beginning at 0:39):
"All we need is a drummer, for people who only need a beat" (drum solo follows)
"I'm gonna add a little guitar and make it easy to move your feet" (lead guitar comes in)
"I'm gonna add some bottom, so that the dancers just won't hide" (bass guitar comes in)
"You might like to hear my organ playing 'Ride Sally Ride'" (organ comes in)
"You might like to hear the horns blowin', Cynthia on the throne, yeah!" (horns come in)

The Monkees - "The Monkees Theme"
(1:13 and others) "Hey, hey, we're the Monkees/ And people say we monkey around/ But we're too busy singin'/ To put anybody down."

Despite the fact that the meta-moment is one of Arta's favorite things in the world, The Tonics have yet to use it in one of their songs. The closest we have is Mark singing about his "creative self-hatred" and "I'm a jingle I'm so useless."

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